At the end of February one of our clients from the Netherlands held a visit to our Chernivtsi office. In this interview, we are going to talk with Barry Meijer, Strategic Technology Officer at Sparkles. He will tell us about their company and their business idea, how he started to work with nearshoring companies, and share a few tips on how to manage mixed in-house and remote software development teams.
Hello Barry! Could you, please, tell us about your project and services you provide?
Sparkles is successful with webshops where you can customize your own cards, especially cards for live-events. Think about cards for when a child is born, you are celebrating an anniversary or when someone dies.
Our added value is in the easy way of customizing your own products (cards) and the experience we create around it. You create the card, get amazing customer experience and when needed customer service from our customer happiness department. After ordering, we create and fulfill your order and ship it to you.
At this moment we are also expanding to the b2b (business-to-business) side of the printing business. For example, when companies have to print posters, flyers or business cards. But also making our applications more scalable by rebuilding parts of existing applications as services. Our new production hub (an application to divide orders between suppliers and track status changes) is a great example of that. The production hub was also the first project/application build by our Ukrainian developers, and yes we call them OUR developers and not SharpMinds developers because they are Sparkles developers.
How did the idea of this project come to you? Why cards?
To excel in business you have to choose a good niche to work in, a piece of the market where you can add value. The competition for cards in the Netherlands is quite high, so our choice to work with live-events was a good one, especially in combination with easy customization and high quality.
And how did you start your cooperation with SM?
One of the strongest factors of our success with SharpMinds is that we weren’t searching for nearshoring. My colleague, Sparkles CEO Mark, came to me and said that one of his friends has a company that helps companies set up nearshoring – SharpMinds. Getting senior developers in the Netherlands is quite challenging, so we decided to give it a try. After an initial meeting with SharpMinds tech management to discuss what was possible, we decided to start with three developers on a project that had to be built from scratch. I wrote out a technical document, had a few meetings with the team and before we knew it they were well on their way. Real fun!
The second factor of our success is that we are in this for the long run. Sparkles believes in creating sustainable relations with people and companies that believe in the same values. In the case of outsourcing, we do not believe in ‘using when needed’ and ‘throw away the developers when business is doing badly.’ This is the only way to work together with the developers and for them to learn about our culture and make them appreciate it too. You learn together, even when you make big mistakes such as throwing away a live database or creating a killer bug that takes down the system for multiple hours. Mistakes are made and as long as the communication is clear and transparent it is ok, and we can learn together.
Outline what benefits you got from outsourcing to Ukraine?
Seniority, that is what we got out of it. Don’t get me wrong, we also have seniority on the Dutch side, but it is really hard nowadays to find Senior developers in the Netherlands. It was amazing to see that we hired one Ukrainian dev (now our team lead) and he knew multiple other developers. We didn’t have to search, he brought them in for interviews and now we have an amazing team with great energy!